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How to financially prepare your kids for back-to-school season

Parents aren’t the only ones pulling out their wallets for back-to-school season. According to a 2019 survey from the National Retail Federation, teens are spending an average of $36.71 of their own money and pre-teens an average of $26.40. 

This year, your back-to-school budgeting may be a little different (okay, a LOT), but one thing remains the same: A new school year means new costs. Which also means new opportunities for your kids to learn about money. Follow along for our tips on getting your kids ready for the upcoming school year!

Plan beyond the school supply list

School supply list with pencil and ruler

Back-to-school budgeting brings up a lot of conversation about school supplies for the first day, but what about the whole school year? When you sit down and talk to your kids about their school supply lists, you may want to chat about other expenses that might pop up throughout the year. Here are a few to consider:

  • Sports
  • Yearbooks
  • ACT/SAT study materials
  • Lunch money 
  • School pictures

Shifting over to a virtual learning environment? Some of the usual expenses may go away this year, but you should be ready for new ones. Think: Virtual classroom decorations, new desks and high-powered laptops.

Talk about back-to-school deals

Love a good BOGO deal? So do we. But your kids may not understand how much it matters to score a good deal — especially during a busy retail season like back-to-school season. 

As you probably know, smart shopping means looking for deals, shopping early and doing research before buying. To get your kids into these habits, try comparing prices online and showing them how to find discounts. Bonus: Help your kids make savings goals throughout the school year. They can do this with their Greenlight app

Separate wants from needs

Trade-off decision about spending extra on pizza delivery

Coming up with a back-to-school budget is a great time to talk about wants and needs. If your kids have a school supply list from their teacher, use it as a guide. If not, it doesn’t take too long to come up with one yourself — or use a quick start list of common items by grade

Go through your kids’ school supply lists one by one. Talk about each item and whether it’s a must-have or a nice-to-have. Then, decide how they (or you) would like to budget accordingly. Maybe your kids want to splurge on a set of trendy binders but they’re okay with buying cheaper folders and erasers. Or maybe they’d rather save for something else down the line, like a laptop or an iPad. And look at that… they’re already thinking about wants and needs! Piece of cake.

Always come back to learning

Your kids might be excited about the first day. They might be nervous. You might be stressing about setting up a virtual learning environment. Or maybe you’re just not ready to think about any of it yet!
 
Here’s what really matters: Your kids are learning. And we’re not just talking about school. Kids learn by doing chores, deciding how to spend their money and setting savings goals. Just pull up your Greenlight app and let the learning (and fun) begin.

A fresh new look for Greenlight

In 2017, Greenlight started on a bold mission to raise a generation of financially-smart kids. Now, that mission is growing. Because… well, we’re growing.

1 million strong

Earlier this year, we surpassed 1 MILLION kids and parents. That’s more than 1 million of you who…

  • Dreamed up new features for us to build.
  • Reached savings goals (and then created more). 
  • Finished chores on time and earned allowances.
  • Chuckled at our corny jokes. 
  • Gave money to charities.

And throughout it all, it’s the 1 million of you who inspired us to keep reaching for new milestones.

Fun, fresh and new

We thought a lot about how we could celebrate you, be better for you and evolve the Greenlight you know and love.

As a team, we decided it needed to be big. It needed to be new. 

So we came together to imagine a new brand — a brand that can be there for every first, every birthday, every transition and every milestone. A brand that inspires your trust and is there to celebrate every little joy of being a parent.

Today, we’re so happy to introduce you to the new look for Greenlight, as we take on an even bigger mission: to shine a light on the world of money for kids and parents.

What changes?

Starting today, the new look and feel will take over our website, social media, emails and more with (minty) fresh colors, a new logo, fun patterns and delightful photos that reflect our vibrant community of families.

What’s next? Stay tuned. Over time, you’ll see our new look across more and more of the Greenlight universe.

What stays the same?

Us! We’re still Greenlight. We’re just growing up, like your kids do. For now, your app and debit cards will still look largely the same. But, changes are on the way — we’re just getting started!

From our Greenlight team to your family, thank you for getting us here. With 1 million reasons to celebrate — and many more to come — welcome to the new Greenlight.

What your middle schooler should know about money

Going off to middle school is a big milestone — for your kids AND for you. No doubt, your kids will have more freedom. They may not need as much help with homework, and they may even ditch a few family movie nights to see their friends. 

But it’s a great time in their lives. They’re growing up, learning about themselves and starting to form their own opinions about the world. While they enjoy these new privileges, it’s still important to help them learn valuable life lessons — starting with money.

Opportunities to earn 

Middle school is a great age to start earning money [1]. How? Chores, babysitting, yard work, dog-walking, the list goes on. Get creative with it!

When your kids are earning money, they begin to understand what it means to spend it. They grasp the idea that money really doesn’t grow on trees — it comes from hard work. A great way to teach this is by giving them chores and allowance (you can find these in your Greenlight app!). 

Help them manage their spending

Middle schoolers are busier than ever before, and they’re enjoying their independence. When they head out to the movies or spend the night at a friend’s house, it’s important that you’re there with them… without physically being there. 

Greenlight lets you keep track of their spending habits directly from your phone. When they’re spending too much at a certain store, you can add spending controls. Or when they’re not saving enough, incentivize them with Parent-Paid Interest

Talk about saving vs. spending 

As your kids grow up, they may start to have more “wants.” Use this as a chance to talk about saving vs. spending. 

We recommend a “show, don’t tell” approach. Show them what happens when you save money over time. Nice car? Nest egg for college? Hoverboard? A healthy savings account will get them there! 

Understanding costs

When kids are young, they don’t always understand how much life costs. As you know, it can be… well, expensive. Not sure how to prepare them? Start here: 

  • The next time you’re grocery shopping, point out certain brands that are more expensive than others. See what they say! 
  • Tell them about variable expenses and fixed expenses [2]. For example, your car payment is a fixed expense — you know it’s the same every month, so you can budget around it. But a nice dinner out? That will vary depending on the restaurant, and we call that a variable expense. 
  • Show them the utility bill (fun, right?). Some people are shocked when they get their first utility bill. Do your kids a favor now and help them learn what drives the cost up or down — they’ll thank you later!

Keep the conversation going 

Your kids will still be under your roof for a while, so don’t let the conversation drop after middle school. Their understanding of money will evolve and so will your conversations. And when you hit a roadblock, you can always count on Greenlight to help you out!


[1] Money Talks News , [2] US News

What high school graduates should know about finances

You’ve made it to the finish line. After diplomas, passed tests and signed acceptance letters, it’s finally starting to feel real. 

If you’re scrambling at the last minute to send your kids off with all the knowledge and tips they need for the real world, take a breather. We have a step-by-step guide for raising financially-smart high school graduates.

The basics 

No matter what financial background they have or career path they choose, there are some basics that every high school senior should know before college. 

  • Credit vs. debit. Once they’re 18, they can get their own credit card. Here’s the thing: they have to be able to prove their independent income or have a co-signer (probably you!). Talk about credit vs. debit to decide if this is the right time for them. 
  • Everything costs money. Teach your kids how to budget and monitor their spending regularly so they don’t find themselves in a bad situation.
  • Wants vs. needs. For some kids, this is the first time they’ll be paying for gas on their own. For others, college loans are about to start piling up. Take this as a teaching moment to explain why needs should always come before wants.

Return on investment 

Whether they’re picking a major or starting their own business, an important lesson is return on investment. Start with something like, “What you do now affects what you do later. If you decide to push off your mandatory classes, you may wind up in college longer than you wanted to.” You can also use a calculator to figure out the ROI for a major or minor [1]. 

Keep communication open 

Just because they’re leaving home doesn’t mean they’re all alone — remind them of this. They have you and they have us. Setting the stage for strong communication is really important! 

Let Greenlight help 

Family finance, big decisions, money management… it’s kinda our thing. They may not be right down the hallway from you anymore, but you can use your app to stay connected and keep up the financial learnings. 

Or, send them a nice Greenlight Gift to let them know you’re thinking of them. With all of this help, they can handle anything that comes their way! 

[1] PayScale

How to keep your kids’ debit card information safe

Here’s a summer quarantine idea: Ask your kids if they know how to write a check (or maybe even see if they know what a check is). Most money managing tools are now digital, which is convenient — but it’s important to know how to keep it safe.

If your kids have their own debit cards and bank accounts, you’ll want to have a talk about online financial safety. Start with these five tips! 

Keep personal information…personal

Kids may talk to their friends about everything, but when they get their first debit card, they’ll have to keep some things private.

Explain to your kids that their debit card number, PIN number and login information should be kept a secret. And while you’re at it, help them come up with a trick to remember these numbers [1]. It’s a lot of information! 

Know when to spot a scam

With little exposure to the world of scamming, kids may not be able to spot something phishy. Have a talk about these possible scams: 

  • Scammers who act like your bank. Make sure your kids never give out personal information via phone, email, text or social media. Greenlight will never reach out directly to a child, so if they ever get a strange call from someone posing as Greenlight, they should politely decline and have a grownup reach out to our Customer Service team.
  • Shoulder surfing [3] is another thing to look out for. This is when a scammer peeks over someone’s shoulder to get their card information. Tell your kids that it’s easy to avoid — just keep your card to yourself and cover that PIN number! 
  • The too-good-to-be-true deals. When your kids start shopping online, have a safety session with them to point out offers that are trustworthy [4] and those that are not.

Practice safety at the ATM 

If your kids are making trips to the ATM, remind them to cover their PIN number. If the ATM has several failed attempts, tell them to head to another one. 

Or, skip the ATM trips altogether. Just turn off ATM spending access in your app. 

Have a safe place for your debit card

Like their candy stash or video game cabinet, kids need to have a safe spot for their debit card. Remind them that this card isn’t just a piece of plastic — it holds all of the money they’ve worked hard for. 

Lost card? It happens to the best of us. In the Greenlight app, you and your kids can turn off the card with the tap of a button. 

Learn about it together

Going through these tips gives you and your kids a chance to learn about financial safety together. Grownups make mistakes too, so it’s a learning moment for everyone. 

With Greenlight, your kids learn by doing. Lessons and conversations come naturally as you work together to keep track of their money, divvy up their earnings and map out their financial futures. Now that’s an offer that’s never too good to be true — sign up for Greenlight today!

 
[1] The balance [2] Nerd Wallet [3] LifeLock [4] WalletHub

A Message from Greenlight on Racism and Injustice

The deaths of George Floyd and many other members of the Black community have left our team heartbroken and outraged. These events have shone a light on continued racism and injustice against Black people in America. As a team, we agree the path forward demands action. Our initial actions are:

  1. We’ve assembled a team of Greenlight employees to mobilize our efforts in promoting equal justice and inclusion.
  1. To start, we will make contributions totaling $100,000 to Black Girls Code, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, and two more organizations to be selected by our team.
  1. Our team will be volunteering with local Atlanta organizations geared toward progressing racial equality.

We stand with everyone fighting against unequal justice, will continue to act, and invite our community of families to do the same. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

To those of you approaching these very difficult and nuanced conversations with your children, as parents, we acknowledge the gravity of parenthood in this moment. And we’re right here with you.

Using your kids’ debit cards to talk about money this summer

The money talk — not as scary as the birds and bees, but still a big deal.  In fact, 49% of parents say they’re not sure how to explain money to their kids [1]. Enter: Summer Break. More time at home means more time to talk about money management. Follow along for some conversation starters and tips on how to have the money talk.

EXPLAIN WHY BUDGETING IS IMPORTANT

79% of Americans keep a budget [2], which is great. Budgets may be a bit more involved for grownups, but that doesn’t mean your kids can’t start learning the basics. How? Start off by explaining why budgeting matters. There’s a good chance they’re already wondering that.

Conversation Starter: “What’s something you really want but you haven’t had the money to buy?” Maybe it’s something you can’t fit into your parent budget, or maybe it’s something you think they should buy on their own. During the summer, there are lots of opportunities for your kids to make money — help them figure out how to manage their earnings.

BREAK DOWN COMMON BUDGETING TERMS

Fixed expenses and variable expenses — ring a bell? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, these are important words to teach your kids about budgeting. Break it down into Summer Break terms and they’ll get it.

Conversation Starter: “A fixed expense is one that doesn’t change. Like, our Netflix subscription. It’s the same price every month. A variable expense is one that does change. Like, a meal at a restaurant. It can go up or down, depending on where we eat.”

TALK ABOUT SAVING MONEY

Budgeting for Summer Break is one thing — saving for it is another. Instead of handing over a wad of cash and hoping they stash it away, make it a hands-on experience with a bit of fun along the way.

Conversation Starter: “Saving money lets you buy things that you might not have enough money for right now. When you add a little bit of money to your savings over time, it adds up so you can buy those things one day.” Tip: Help your kids make a savings goal (or better, lots of goals). Then, work together to plan out how they’ll reach that goal.

GIVE KIDS THEIR OWN DEBIT CARD

The fun part about the money talk is giving your kids their own debit card. Unlike a credit card, they can only spend what’s on it. The best part? They won’t realize that they’re learning valuable lessons every time they use their card — but trust us, they are.

With the Greenlight debit card and app, your kids can:

  • Set savings goals.
  • Learn to make trade-off decisions. Keychain or shark-tooth necklace? It’s their call.
  • Earn allowance through chores. Cool fact: Greenlight kids who earn allowance save 26% more. Woohoo!

A few other things you can do in your app:

  • Manage access to ATMs. Are they withdrawing a bit too much? Set limits.
  • Choose stores. You decide where they can and can’t spend. Gas only? Just at restaurants? Adjust the settings in your app.
  • Get real-time notifications and monitor their spend levels.

GET SET FOR SUMMER

Join Greenlight today and help your kids get a head start on budgeting for their Summer Break — and for life! Sign up now

[1] Investopedia.com [2] Debt.com

Everything you need to know about National Decision Day

For many high school seniors, May 1st is an important day: National Decision Day. It’s the day they decide what comes after high school — the first of many big decisions they’ll make for themselves. This year, it also marks a day in which their decisions are heavily impacted by the world around us. 

They did the work, took the tests, made it through the teenage years and now have their sights set on graduating high school. While you and your family explore different ways to commemorate this milestone (perhaps with video calls and virtual graduation parties?), we hope you can still find time to talk about the next chapter of your child’s life.

The new-age debate

Our Gen Zs live in a world of entrepreneurs and self-starters. They’re seeing success as seven-year-old YouTube influencers make millions and 16-year-olds start their own companies.

So it makes sense why your kids will have different thoughts and considerations surrounding the college talk. That’s not to say that they don’t want to go to college — they just may not see it as the only option. As parents, we need to listen to that so we can guide them toward a decision that we all feel good about.

To sign or not to sign? What to consider

The college talk isn’t just on National Decision Day — it’s year-round. It’s a good idea to stay in the loop with the merging views on the subject. When you delve into the college talk, you may come across split views on a few things: 

Student loans: 

Because every financial situation is different, student loans are a hot button for many parents. If you and your kids are thinking about student loans, take time to explore every avenue and talk about how it will impact them throughout and after college. 

In 2018, the average individual student loan amount was $29,200. Loans may or may not be an option for your family. Either way, National Decision Day is a great opportunity to talk through the numbers with your soon-to-be grad. 

Public vs. private vs. community:

The good news is we’ve got lots of options. The not-so-good news? Well, it’s hard to decide! It’s no secret that most private schools come with a heavy cost and community schools are typically the most affordable. Public schools tend to sit somewhere in the middle of the two. 

Talk to your kids about finances — how they’ll be managing their money throughout college, pros and cons of an expensive school and what matters most to them. Your conversation could bring you to a cost-benefit analysis (bonus!) or it could spark up a new outlook on the entire decision-making process. 

Career analysis: 

Anyone else feel like their kids are too young to decide on a career path? In many ways, they are. That being said, they may have a different perspective. 91% of high schoolers believe they know their dream job, according to a survey done by EY and Junior Achievement. 

To them, a career is fun, exciting and adulty (their word, not ours). You know better than them that careers are not just about fun — they’re about financial security and stability. 

The transition out of high school is a prime time to have an open, honest conversation with your kids about this. You have the best insight into your kids’ strengths and interests, and you can use this knowledge to help them choose a path that will give them the biggest return on investment. (Props to you if you can make ROI sound fun!) 

Looking for a way to start the conversation? Try these: 

“Are we there yet?”

You’ve got a lot to think about, but no need to stress about it. National Decision Day is an exciting time for you and your kids. No matter what path they choose, the most important thing is that they have you. 

And… they have Greenlight! They may be growing up, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to stop helping them make wise money decisions. If you haven’t already, join Greenlight to keep your kids financially-healthy and happy throughout this next chapter of their lives.

April Financial Literacy Month: Start talking to your kids about money


There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding families across the globe as we navigate a new time full of many changes. As parents, we’re all spending a lot of extra time in our homes, with Netflix binges and family game nights to keep us entertained (read: sane). 

Times like these can present opportunities for very teachable moments with your kids. Whether you’ve become a teacher in a literal sense or you’re trying to set a good example during this unique time, we’re here to back you up and give you the tools to help your kids navigate the world of money…. starting with Financial Literacy Month. 

April is Financial Literacy Month, and we’re ready to jump into savings goals, helpful Greenlight features and mini-lessons for you and your kids to learn together. Now that you’re spending more time at home, let’s explore financial responsibility and all that it can unlock for your kids!

Cover the basics

Smart saving habits are the cornerstone of financial health and happiness. If you can get your kids thinking (and talking) about saving at a young age, they’ll have an easier time with it as adults.

We’re all about rewarding smart saving skills, so we’re giving Greenlight kids the chance to win $500 when they add to their savings goals this month. As long as they’re contributing to their goals throughout April, your family will be automatically entered for a chance to win. Make sure your kids download the app!

Talk it out

There’s no need to teach your kids about money all at once. Instead, start with simple conversations that get them in the money management mindset. 

For example, talk to them about wants vs. needs so they can start to understand why they need to allocate their money toward certain expenses. Or introduce them to credit and debit — two totally different concepts, but both very important for your kids to understand.

Join the community

Now we want to hear from YOU! Join our conversations on social media and stay up to date with our blog. We’ll keep you in the know on our Savings Goal Sweepstakes, share kid-friendly finance tips and give you all kinds of ways to get connected with other parents like you. Let’s let off some steam but keep it supportive — we’re all navigating this crazy world together! 

From our family at Greenlight to you and yours, Happy Financial Literacy Month.

Ideas to help keep kids happy, busy and learning while at home full-time


From all of us here at Greenlight, I hope you and your family are staying safe and healthy during this time.

In my house, we’ve been doing our best to stay healthy and productive. My 11-year-old son has been trying to get 60 juggles with his soccer ball, shooting baskets, playing video games and somehow fitting in some school work (with a lot of help from my wife Kelly and his teachers). My 16-year-old daughter has been hanging out in a hammock in a tree with her friends who are doing the same thing, six feet away from each other. (This must be a teenager thing?) Our golden retriever has always wanted to come to work with me, and with me working from home, he finally gets his chance. My favorite thing about the current situation: playing a lot of board games with the kids.

As we explore this new way of living life as full-time caregivers, teachers, chefs, entertainers and peacekeepers, I wanted to share a few tricks and resources that have been helping Kelly and I keep our four kids happy, busy and learning – while helping us keep our sanity. 😊

The School of Mom and Dad

Home-Schooling Tweens and Teens During Coronavirus Closings

For Younger Kids

For All Kids

Arts & Culture

Indoor Recess

Art projects

We noticed a pileup of cardboard boxes and had our kids use them to create their dream homes. Of course, our daughter built an airplane house, fully equipped with a pool and tennis court. Sky’s the limit, right?

We had the kids illustrate their own short stories – an activity that could last a couple hours or several days, depending on the complexity of the story.

Outside time

We’ve been encouraging the kids to go outside and play in our yard at least a couple times a day.

Quiet time

Sometimes, my wife Kelly and I crave moments of quiet. We’ve encouraged our kids to dust off their favorite books at least once a day for dedicated quiet time. It breaks up the day, and we all read at the same time.

Family games

We’ve been playing a lot of board games with problem solving components to keep the kids engaged and thinking.

What’s been working for you?

I’d love to hear more about what’s working for you. Join us on Facebook and Instagram for discussion and sharing ideas on how to keep our kids happy, busy and learning.

Sending best wishes from my family to yours,

Tim Sheehan
Co-Founder & CEO
Greenlight